A new memorial to Terry Fox was unveiled by B.C. Premier Christy Clark on Friday morning outside BC Place in Vancouver, just days before the annual Terry Fox Run.

Clark said Fox's legacy changed a nation.

"We don't get those kinds of gifts very often," she said.

Fox, who lost his right leg to cancer at age 18, began his cross-country Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research near St. John's in April 1980.

He had to end the run less than five months later, in Thunder Bay, Ont., and died of cancer on June 28, 1981.

Terry's brother, Darrell Fox, said the loss is still tough for the family, three decades later.

"Terry is my brother and ultimately I would like to be able to see him. So that will never go away. But I am only one person who has been touched by cancer," he said. 

Rolly Fox, Terry's father, was also at the unveiling. He said he still can't believe how his son ran a marathon on one leg, every day that summer.

"I am very proud of my son, how he matured through his journey with cancer, how he learned to appreciate life, how he committed his life to others."

Four faces of determination

The design of the new memorial is a series of four bronze statues of Fox running westward toward his final goal of the Pacific Ocean.

Each statue is larger than the previous one in the series, signifying Fox's growing popularity during his historic cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer. The four statues show Fox in a different position of his unique step-hop gait.

The memorial was designed by Vancouver artist and author Douglas Coupland, who became friends with the Fox family while writing a book about Terry.

'There wasn't one single step he took where his body wasn't in some kind of pain, large or small.'—Douglas Coupland, Terry Fox biographer

Coupland said he designed the statues so that people alive 1,000 years from now will still be able to understand the story of a young man who decided to run across Canada, a marathon every day, on just one leg.

"You realized through the run that there wasn't one single step he took where his body wasn't in some kind of pain, large or small," he said.

"Boy, it really puts you in your place."

Coupland said it was intimidating to create a public, permanent tribute to a national hero.

"It's a sacred trust, and you've got to get it right. I'm going to be dust in 50 years, but these will be around for millenia," he said.

The new memorial replaces the tile archway at the Robson Street entrance to BC Place that was erected in the early 1980s as a memorial to Fox. The new memorial comes ahead of the reopening of BC Place, which is getting a new half-billion-dollar retractable roof.

Near the site of the new bronze statues, an inscribed plaque ponders what would have been the outcome if Fox didn't choose to do his run. The inscribed text suggests that it is through difficult choices that lives are changed.

Terry Fox raised just over $1 million himself for cancer research before his death in 1981. Runs held annually in his name since then have raised more than $500 million.

This year's Terry Fox run is Sunday.

With files from the CBC's Tim Weekes and Terry Donnelly